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 Imperial Armor 13 Review

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PostSubject: Imperial Armor 13 Review   Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:38 am

Posted by AbusePuppy,

So the long-awaited update to the multitude of Chaos vehicles is here, and with it a new army list that updates the Renegades and Heretics (i.e. Lost and the Damned) army as well as a side benefit. The book is something of a pleasant surprise for CSM players, since many of the entries within are just Chaos equivalents of many of the best Loyalist vehicles- and unlike many previous iterations, they aren't simply worse than their counterparts in arbitrary ways.

The book isn't all golden, but it's a ray of light for a faction that is struggling to remain relevant even in more casual games, much less the cutthroat competitive world. So let's take a dip inside and see what kind of gems we can discover (as well as poke fun at Forge World's inability to know the rules of its own game.)

Renegades and Heretics
A big pet peeve of mine when it comes to the new ally chart is that making any kind of “corrupted” army is very difficult, whereas playing part of the Imperium gives you tons of options. With CSM and IG changed to Come the Apocalypse allies, Lost and the Damned armies became very, very awkward to use, which seems like a terrible decision from a fluff standpoint (which is nominally what GW likes to come from.) Thankfully, Forge World has stepped in here and given us a better option in the form of the Renegades and Heretics list.

Renegades and Heretics is, at its core, a stripped-down Imperial Guard army, and most of its units are either taken directly from or heavily inspired by the IG codex. It also has some units available from other books (notably CSM and a smattering of Daemons), but the bulk of the army are knockoff clones of IG forces. This can be considered a good thing, all in all, as IG is a pretty solid book. R&H are considered Battle Brothers to CSM and Daemons and can ally freely with either of them as well as other armies, treating itself as occupying CSM's slot on the ally chart.

The main distinction for Renegades is that they have a random Leadership value (d6+4) which is rolled the first time it becomes relevant. While cute, this is rather horrible to keep track of and will create all kinds of awkward memory issues; it would've been better if it was army-wide (rather than unit-by-unit) or something similar. As-is, it will be extremely annoying to keep track of but not actually that much of a penalty, game-wise; you're averaging around where IG sit for morale and there are several upgrades that can be used to mitigate it (not to mention stuff like Warlord traits and special rules.)

Chaos Covenants are another interesting rule spread across many units- they are generally upgrades bought for a squad leader that hand out a bonus to the whole unit. Khorne gives rerolls to wound on the first turn of combat; Nurgle gives 6+ FNP; Slaanesh gives Fleet; Tzeentch gives BS2 for Snap Shots. Their prices are typically pretty reasonable, so aside from the potential for getting sniped out, they are not bad buys in most cases (although Nurgle is somewhat lackluster.)

The Renegade warlord trait table is… well, it's very interesting. One of the traits gives you a VP on a 5+ whenever a unit is killed within 12″ of your warlord- for an army with tons of expendable troops such as Renegade, that can be quite fantastic. It's not restricted to only during KP missions, either- if some of your guys bite it, you have a 1/3 chance of earning a point. Another one lets you kill models in a fleeing unit to force them to regroup; the third lets you choose one reserve roll to pass on either a 2+ or 6+ (your choice), which is surprisingly useful. The fourth gives you some derpy autohits in close combat (where you don't belong); the fifth is a bizarre “better at killing buildings” ability that may as well be blank; and the last one gives a small chance for an autowound to anyone in B2B. All in all not a great chart, but based on the strength of Fanatical Convert alone you can make an argument that the table is worth going for.

Command Squads can get any one of several upgrades if you like. Psyker (with Maelific and Bio as options) and Fearless for 35pts; Mutant (which gives three rolls on a random table, potentially getting Slow and Purposeful) for 15pts; Master of the Horde (roll a 5+ when squads of 15+ models flee or are destroyed to get a new one from reserves) for 20pts, which also bumps up the max size of their basic infantry to 30 models; Revolutionary (Zealot, free Covenant) for 25pts; and Magus (3+ armor, +1T, FNP6+) for 30pts, which also unlocks Defilers and Decimators (ugh) and lets you tack FNP(6+) onto squads for 10pts. You can only ever have one of any of these upgrades in a detachment, and only on the warlord.

Most of the stuff in the Renegades list is just crappy, budget versions of IG. They can swap to Laspistol/CCW for free, which is nice, and you can get Blood Slaughterers, Plague Zombies (with FNP 4+ and some other small changes), Blight Drones, Sonic Dreads, Noise Marines, and Chaos Spawn as options, although generally as one-off units based on your affiliation.

Their Sentinels don't have Scout, but are 20pts with BS2 and can get up to six in a unit. Flood the table with shitty walkers! They can pay 40pts to make the whole unit BS3, which is pretty alright for larger squads, but still doesn't make them terribly impressive.

They can get most of the usual IG vehicles- Russes, artillery, Hellhound-chassis, etc, virtually all of them with a small discount and BS2 but with the option to get BS3 for the same price as the IG version costs. Wyverns are of particular note here, since the Ballistic Skill hit doesn't really mean anything to them- 55pts for one is a really nice deal. Rapiers and Quad Mortars are also worth noting for their cheapness here; 70pts for three BS3 Rapiers or 120pts for four BS2 Quad Mortars is a fairly terrifying prospect on many levels. Of course, Forge World still hasn't remembered that barrage weapons aren't Pinning anymore, but we'll have to just overlook that little issue.

The core infantry unit is available in blocks of 10-20, with one special per five and one heavy per ten; at 3pts per model, 5pts for a squad leader, and 10pts for BS3 they are actually a pretty solid competitor to other horde infantry units in the game. Not being able ot get them in larger units is unfortunate, as it would be nice for leading them with characters from CSM, but twenty models with a pair of Grenade Launchers and an Autocannon (plus a sarge and BS3) is only 95pts, which is noticeably cheaper than other similar units. And the option to go to Melta or Plasma is also there for a tad bit more, not to mention Krak Grenades or a Meltabomb or any number of other things. They come in platoons of 3-5, making them easily able to squeeze a ton of bodies into a simple allied detachment.

Interestingly, the army also gets Arvus Lighters for 55pts each, a massive discount from their previous iterations. Although atrocious as a shooting platform, the Arvus is almost as cheap as even vehicles like the Rhino and for a grand total of 80pts you can end up with a surprisingly-tough scoring unit that can cross the board at will.

All in all, the Renegades and Heretics army is mostly interesting for its ability to bring large numbers of cheap ObSec units as well as providing many of the IG goodies to Chaos. It's not a blowout list, but a unit of 30 Plague Zombies or the like can be a surprisingly-effective addition to many lists and there's nothing bad about bringing along a ton of Thudd Guns or other support weapons.

Chaos Vehicles
This is the real meat of the book. CSM units have in the past been rather lackluster in most cases, but IA13 helps that out a lot; it's still not perfect, but it's a nice addition at least. I'm pretty much just gonna jump through and give individual impressions unit-by-unit here and then talk about overall consequences later. Some of the units below are Infernal Relics, meaning they can only one unless you bring Abaddon, a Warpsmith, or a Sorcerer with Maelific (wait, I have to pick that BEFORE the game starts?!) This can be a bit of a limiter on them, but Sorcerers are a quality HQ anyways, so it's not crippling- and if you just want a single example, it doesn't hurt at all.

The Decimator is still waaaaay too expensive for a BS3 vehicle. AV13 is nice, and Unholy Vigor (letting it pop back to life) is cute and all, but its core armament is really lackluster and the gun upgrades push the price well past what you should be paying for them.

Blight Drones remain decent, if not amazing, choices. A pie plate and a torrent flamer is a great anti-infantry setup and they're pretty tough to hurt, plus a Reaper as a backup gun isn't bad. But the Heldrake is probably superior given Vector Strike combined with its own, superior flamer. Still, they're not so bad that you should feel awful about running one. Why BS2, though? With that whole “all Daemon Engines are WS, BS, and I3″ thing, why suddenly break that rule to make this particular one worse?

Rapier Batteries are pretty sexy. 55pts for the Laser Destroyer is a nice deal, and while Ld8 doesn't excite much, they are at least benefiting from the MEQ statline in the more general sense. They also have the option of an Ectoplasma Cannon (meh), Hades Autocannon (better, since it's the only BS4 one and 36″ isn't too bad), or a special Conversion beamer that has 12″/24″/48″ range bands. However, 75pts per on the latter seems like a bit much to ask, although staying in the 24″-48″ band for S10 AP1 would be rather easy… (Oh and if it dies, it can either blow up like a Rapier or do the same and leave a warp rift that Daemons can DS onto. Cute.)

Blood Slaughterers are pretty much the same. 130pts compares poorly with the Maulerfiend, which is much faster. The additional hitting power and toughness (AV13 front) are nice, but being twice as fast and ignoring all terrain is kinda a big deal. Their “gun,” which can still drag vehicles/MCs around, has an awkward “hits on a 4+” rule for some reason (rather than just not giving them BS1), which ends up meaning it ignores Snap Shots.

Chaos Contemptors are pretty similar to their Loyalist versions, but lacking a Mortis pattern they are still fairly weak (though they can at least get two sets of guns.) Their reactor gives them a 4++ against glances and a 6++ against pens, making them okayish in terms of protection; Butcher Cannons (S8 Heavy 4) seem like the natural choice, but at 245pts for the pair of them, it is pricey indeed.

Sonic Dreads are back and come stock with a Fist, Doom Siren, and TL'd Sonic Blaster; it can trade for the usual Dreadnought weapons or swap its Sonic Blaster for a Blastmaster for 15pts. It can also get a Warp Amp, letting it stand still to double its shots, for 15pts. 190 for two Blastmaster shots, though? Meh. Oh, and FW still makes awkward rules for walkers and CCWs, as many of them (including the Sonic Dread) inexplicably lose an attack for dropping their last melee weapon.

The Ferrum Infernus Dread is a Relic, meaning it's limited as above. It's WS/BS5 and is a decent chunk more than a usual Dread, but gets the option of purchasing some unique abilities. Lord of the Long War means that if it Explodes, you roll a d6; 1-2 you get a Spawn, 3-4 reroll the damage (with another Explosion killing you normally), 5-6 you get a Daemon Prince. On a 160pt Dread, in an edition where HP damage kills most things? Nah. Host of Daemonic Iron lets the unit shrug off shaken/stunned and does a S4 AP3 hit back to melee combatants that take off HP. Destroyer of Cities changes your loadout to Drill (gives Armorbane), Heavy Flamer, and Flamestorm Cannon (woo!) and lets you autohit everyone inside a transport or building that you get a penetrating hit on. Hilarious when it works, but probably not gonna work.

The Kharybdis Assault Claw is a big ol' thing that has 5HP, but is still only AV12. It comes in just like a Drop Pod and is a Relic, plus it has five S6 AP2 two-shot guns on it that can fire independently. It also has a “Melta Ram” that lets it ram like a tank (yay for S6 I guess? That seems awfully weak for melta) and can cause a “blast” that extends d3+3″ from the hull when it lands, doing S6 AP5 Ignores Cover hits to stuff. All of that is cool I guess, but 260pts for a transport, even one that carries twenty models, is a crapload to pay- especially when it has suck lackluster firepower and stats as this.

The Dreadclaw is not much better. It arrives first turn now, which is nice, and it can do the same “flame blast” thing as its big brother and a statline pretty much like a Drop Pod, minus the built-in weapon. It can be a transport for CSM, Chosen, and all of the Dreads (including Helbrutes.) Okay, so that's probably worth more than a Drop Pod is, right? Sure. But would you pay a hundred frickin' points for it? For an AV12 vehicle? Like hell.

The Hell Talon is still pretty fragile (AV10, though HP4) and comes with a weird weapon loadout- a Lascannon, an Reaper, and eight bombs. (Why eight? You can only ever drop seven.) It has BS3 but also Strafing Run, letting it nail things pretty effectively; it can upgrade its Reaper to get another shot and Rending for 15pts. The usual bombs are S5 AP4 Ignores Cover, but you can get other bombs- unguided ones (S8 AP4 Heavy 3 that always snap shot? how does that even work), alchemical ones (4+ poisoned three shots), or Warp Pulse (S2 AP2 haywire blind large blast). It also has a kooky thing where it can redeploy itself d6+2″, maintaining its facing, before moving each turn- it's sorta a poor man's version of Vector Dancer. All in all it's not terrible but not great either, since it just ends up being so fragile most of the time.

The Hell Blade, on the other hand, is a lot more useful. While even more fragile (2HP), it's got most of the same stuff, minus Strafing Run. It has two Reapers as base and can upgrade them both for the extra shot and Rending for a mere 15pts and also benefits from a rule that lets it reroll 1s when wounding/penetrating a single enemy FMC or flyer. For a mere 100pts, the Hell Blade is a nasty little AA fighter and a surprisingly-decent ground attack craft; pouring out six TL'ed shots puts it pretty on par with the Stormtalon and its redeployment trick is a good replacement for its other disadvantages. Unfortunately, the FA slot is rather crowded in the Chaos book, so finding room for them will be a bit tough.

Fire Raptors are that rarest of gems- a unit where the Chaos version is better than the loyalist one. Its stock loadout is pretty identical, giving up Power of the Machine Spirit (and a consequent price break) and little else; like its cousin, it is a Relic vehicle. Loss of PotMS normally hurts a lot, but when two of your three main weapons can already fire independently, who cares? Better yet, it can swap its Quad Bolters into double-Reaper turrets, meaning it gets seven S6 AP3 shots and eight S7 AP4 shots PLUS the four missiles in the wings. They come base as shitty Hellstrikes (no, I do not want an Ordnance weapon on my multi-gun platform, thanks) but for a token cost you can get some nice Ignore Cover pie plates instead. Even in its simplest configuration the Fire Raptor is a holy terror and with a few select upgrades it becomes a major threat to tanks and infantry alike while still coming in at a reasonable (~250) cost, especially given it is a 4HP flyer.

The Storm Eagle, on the other hand, is equally lackluster as its counterpart. It flies, it has a transport capacity, you can pay far too many points onto it to give it some okayish guns. Don't bother, take a Land Raider or something instead.

Like the Spartan, for example. Costing a fair chunk more than a regular Land Raider, the Spartan has double the guns in the sponsons (because Lascannons amirite?) and can hold 25 models. It can bolt on all kinds of other stuff, but really you just grab the Melta immunity and call it a day- 300pts for your tank is more than enough already. Of CSM's many weak delivery options, it is perhaps the least-awkward, though it's still subject to all the usual issues with big tanks, only doubled down. But hey, if the other guy doesn't have Haywire (or roll that 6 to Explode you), you're golden!

Chaos also gets its own wacky version of the Achilles. For some reason it doesn't get the “I'm immune to Lance, Melta, and penalize rolls on the damage table” ability because, uh, why would it have the defining feature of its chassis? It does get the TLMM sponsons, though, and its main gun is a Thudd Gun that improves its profile (Str, AP, penalty on Pinning checks it never causes) by one for every HP the tank is missing. That's actually pretty huge, as with half your HP gone it becomes a MEQ-killing machine, but chances are the enemy isn't gonna be polite enough to just stop there. Also it costs more than the Spartan and only carries six guys (and isn't an Assault Vehicle.) So yeah.

The Proteus trades its old garbage rules for a newer, differenter one- units that try to shoot it have to make a Pinning check immediately, losing their shots if they fail. But, since it's just an under-gunned version of the normal LR that you can't assault out of, no one is gonna care enough to shoot it anyways.

Now, the Sicaran, on the other hand- well, it's kinda one of the best tanks around. A six-shot Rending Autocannon that also ignores Jink saves? And is twin-linked? And can get sponsons for a reasonable price? And is Fast with strong protection (13/12/12)? In short, is a fantastic firepower platform for an affordable price that does everything you could want and more? Yeah. Yeah, you should take this thing. Maybe even take more than one of the HQs so you can bring multiple of them, because Sicarans are great.

CSM also now get access to the Relic Predator, coming stock with a Flamestorm Cannon that can be swapped for a Magna-Melta, Heavy Conversion Beamer, or Plasma Destroyer. It's a reasonably-solid vehicle with some interesting weapon options, but probably nothing that you'll go nuts over; basically just another good HS option, where you already have a bunch of them.

Lords of War
The Greater Brass Scorpion is still a big, punchy guy. It's rather expensive at 700pts, but 14/13/10 and 9HP ends up being pretty good protection, even if WS/BS/I3 is still silly. It's one of the few units capable of first-turn charges (moves 12″, charges 3d6″) and it has surprisingly good guns in the form of two S6 AP3 templates, a S10 AP2 Ignores Cover pie plate, and a S6 AP3 Heavy 10 gun. The real kicker, though is its Stomp attacks, which is makes d3+2 of- that's a lot of dead infantry, penetrating hits, and auto-removals getting dished out. In fact, if you roll max Stomps and stretch them maximum distance, you can make him hit a target 27″ away!

The Chaos Thunderhawk is exactly like the loyalist one with a handful of slightly-changed options you don't care about. It occasionally eats passengers and regains HP. Eh.

The Typhon Siege Tank is a more interesting pick. AV14 all around and 6HP make it both tougher and more fragile than some other superheavies, but for “only” 350pts it is surprisingly cheap. It only has a single gun base, though- a 24″ (or 48″ if you stood still) S10 AP1 Ignores Cover megablast. It can slap on a couple other upgrades, including Melta immunity and some sponsons, but the real strategy here would be to keep it (relatively) inexpensive and use it as a fire support tool for other units. A pretty worthy inclusion, really.

Chaos also gets access to the Fellblade, another Baneblade-style vehicle. It comes with Quad Las sponsons and HB + Demolisher on the hull, plus a unique main gun- S9 Armorbane Blast or S8 AP3 megablast. The fact that the main gun is twin-linked is actually pretty handy, insuring it hits its target, but the megablast is realistically the only shot you'll ever fire with it (one penetration on a big tank is unlikely to do much, if anything.)

The book also includes rules for two of FW's named Daemon Princes- Mamon, dedicated to Nurgle, and Uraka, of Khorne. Mamon is… basically a Daemon Prince only in name, as his statline is that of a Great Unclean One and he comes with FNP, Poison (2+), and an AP3 flamer with 2+ poison. At 220pts he's okay, but suffers from the usual issues of short range and slow speed and without access to Biomancy or Greater Gifts, he ends up being a fair bit easier to kill (if cheaper) than a normal GUO. Uraka is slightly cheaper and gets to at least wear Power Armor, but as he is stuck on foot it really won't do him any good, especially not with shitty Toughness 5.

The “proper” mega-daemons are a different story. Starting out with Scabeiathrax at 777pts, he has a pretty beefy profile (WS9, T9, W6) and a 3+ invulnerable. He gets some bonus attacks from the Nurglings covering him at Initiative 3 which are… Unwieldy for some reason? Does that mean they actually go at I1, or do they follow their own text and go at I3? Anyways, he carries a Heavy Flamer (ooooh!) and can only move 6″ because he's fat, but gets FNP(4+), grenades, and any non-daemon within 6″ of him at the start of his turn has to make a Toughness test or take a wound. Given his huge cost, multiple disadvantages, and complete non-contribution to shooting, it's hard to see any real reason to use him. A GUO with Biomancy and Gifts will be half the price but pretty much just as effective (and probably tougher) in basically every way.

An'ggrath, on the other hand, is a beast. Coming in at 888pts, he has a drastically better profile (T8, W8, 2+/3++, 10s in combat stats, and flies.) He doesn't have a lot going for him other than sheer punchiness, but he does have a LOT of that- d6+7 attacks on the charge at WS10 (although inexplicably only I5) will do most things in pretty handily, especially in combination with Stomp. He's a beast to take down, but he'll often be hard-pressed to do more than charge one throwaway unit per turn due to his sheer size and unwieldiness.

Zarakynel is the Slaaneshi megadaemon, and as is usual he is the least impressive of them all. He has the weakest profile by far and only a small handful of abilities to compensate; healing a wound on a 2+ when doing damage in CC is nice, and making enemies unable to strike back if they fail Leadership is neat as well, but for something that costs about a third of an army, he needs more than that.

The last daemon lord, Aetaos'rau'keres- otherwise known as “super ultra mega chicken” or “cat on keyboard”- is the most expensive and, due to being the shooty one, also probably the best. He's T8 W9 3++ and rerolling 1s, so all but impossible to kill in most cases; he's ML4 and has to pick at least two powers off of the Change table (and can't roll on Maelific at all), but with access to Divination, Telepathy, and Biomancy he's in a pretty good place nonetheless. He also carries a staff that lets him drop a ton of pie plates (poison 4+, haywire, d3+6 shots, AP3) onto the enemy on a successful Ld10 check, but on a failure the enemy gets to place the attack instead. If it kills an infantry unit, you get some Horrors I guess, yaaaay. The real thing here is that he's as much of a combat beast as the others, is even tougher, and also comes with a useable shooting power as well- again, for his points he'll be hard-pressed to really do enough, but unlike the others he cannot realistically be killed by… almost anything, really. An unlucky hit from a Str D weapon can take him out (although he'll still get his FNP rolls against it), but virtually nothing else can.

The book also includes what are basically reprints of the some of FW's low-tier superheavies, including the Malcador (i.e. “shitty Leman Russ”), Minotaur (“two Basilisks stapled together”), and Malcador Defender (“that is not enough Heavy Bolters”). There's also a traitor version of the Baneblade that bolsters the morale of nearby units with random Leadership, but also gives them Fearless so this is never relevant? Eh, whatever.

Legacies of Ruin
Note that only one vehicle per 1000pts of the army can have a Legacy, and any of the Daemonic vehicles (including anything that takes Daemonic Possession) cannot have one. Costs typically are separated into vehicle, superheavy vehicle, walker, and superheavy walker for each upgrade; superheavies usually pay about double what regular versions do.

A lot of the upgrades give two USRs, very commonly Fear + something else or Preferred Enemy (one faction) + something else. These typically are a bit more, though not grossly more, than you would want to pay for them, so decent as fluffy or specialized options. There are some others that are worth noting, though.

Death of Kasyr Lutien lets you reroll one die on Maelific tests for each HP it has remaining for a mere 15pts; however, if you fail the test the vehicle takes a penetrating hit in addition to any other effects. Fourth Quadrant Rebellion is also 15pts and gives Cultists within 12″ Fearless as well as gaining a 4++ when it's on its final hull point. Scourge of the Greenskins gives PE(Orks) and lets you move an extra d6″ when Tank Shocking- so I guess a way for tanks to move further, amongst other things? 20pts isn't an awful price. Perdus Rift Anomaly gives PE(Tau) and lets you reroll (or force the enemy to reroll) the dice to Seize; for 20pts, it's something of a must-take if you have any eligible chassis. 1st War of Armageddon boosts the invuln of Daemons of Khorne within 12″ by +1, which is a neat trick; however, given that most of them are a bit lacking, probably not something you sink for.

So What's It All Mean?
Ignoring most of the Lords of War stuff, as it doesn't really change much, the important takeaway here is twofold. One, CSM gets access to an ally with some very efficient IG-style Objective Secured units. Being able to plunk down a back line of 60+ bodies with heavy and special weapons for less than a hundred points per squad is no joke, especially when you're running a Master of the Horde for a handful more points that gives you the potential to recycle any of them when they die. Now add in a number of efficient shooting tanks and artillery pieces available to both armies and the utility Legacies like rerolling Seize or Maelific dice and you have a potentially very strong gun army that is no slouch in a fight, either. While it's unlikely to dethrone Wave Serpents (though Sicarans give you a running chance), combined with the existent units in the CSM core book and you have a pretty hard-hitting army as a whole. It does not, unfortunately, enable any kind of viable assault list, but if you don't mind going against the grain you can have a very functional strategy.

All in all, IA13 is a pretty decent publication. It suffers from the unsteady balance of many of the IA books, but nothing jumps out as insanely overpowered (not even the Sicaran or Fire Raptor) and it's easy enough to ignore the trashy stuff. I'd rank it up with the IA9-11 series of books in terms of how much I like it- it's probably one of the most useable of the books and certainly by far the best non-loyalist supplement they've done so far. It's not the complete salvation of CSM, but it is at least a hand up for a book that was limping pretty badly, so that's nice to see. Good on yer, Forge World.

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